I wasn’t a real travel writer, I never went anywhere.
Writing about home felt like a compromise, a concession made because I lacked the money to fly to Venice, explore the Balkans, or cruise Cuba. Without bylines, press trips weren’t on offer. My travel budget was $0.
Experts advised, “go local.” So, real travel writer or not, I forged ahead, scouting local stories, determined to get published.
My first ink was for a tabloid covering local music, art, entertainment, and food. The newspaper, a free publication, is read by 10,000 locals and visitors. I gathered my nerve, called the editor, and pitched preview stories for two events. “One photo, 300 words, ink and a byline, no money” was all he said. I submitted my work and waited, not knowing if it had been accepted until the paper hit the newsstand. When I opened the paper my work on was page two. My heart smiled. I squealed. I was on my way.
Each month stories and photos I discovered around town were published. Each month’s acceptance built my confidence. I began pitching local stories to non-local magazines and websites. They were accepted—and I got paid.
Since those first articles, I’ve had 80+ stories, over 100 photos, four videos, and three maps published. All but three are local topics. Twenty-one were in a local paper. The rest went to publishers in other parts of the planet. I’m proud to call myself a “local travel writer” these days. My local stories, photos, and videos are the reason for my success.
Going local has had three important things on my travel writer’s life:
1. Getting the story is easier and costs little or nothing
Asking for an interview from someone I know, someone I do business with, or a place I frequent, is much easier than approaching a stranger in a strange land.
It cost me $0 to go rowing with a local maritime history group, interview a local chef, photograph a new hiking trail, or attend our frequent food, wine, art, and wildlife festivals.
Local comps and perks come my way now. Accommodations, meals, excursions, theater tickets, concert tickets, wine, organic foods—all the things visitors and locals alike want to hear about.
No matter where you live, there is something interesting, fun, new, historic, picturesque, tasty, or just plain weird. Find it, photograph it, and write about it. Offer the story to a local or regional publication.
2. I created a niche for myself
I’d heard it many times, “find a niche and specialize.” I was clueless at first, but as my local stories were being accepted by non-local publishers, the niche lightbulb came on and I had an ah-ha moment. “This is my niche, the remote, wild, Northern California coast, a destination on countless bucket lists.”
I’m now a go-to writer for local travel stories. Consider being the same for your area, you have an all access pass.
3. I fell in love
Every day, I fall in love with my home and neighbors. The search for stories exposes me to every nook and cranny of the county. I visit the beaches, hike the trails, find the waterfalls, and gaze at the wildlife. Vineyards, wineries, ranches, and farm-stays have become much-loved overnight getaways (on the house of course). Lodging, eateries, and shopping have new meaning when I look at them with a visitor’s eyes. I’ve met remarkable people and made many new friends.
I’m proud to tell our stories. The articles I write have a purpose beyond my byline. I’m a vital part of our tourist economy and a valued member of the community.
I explore and write about other locales, but most workdays are spent traveling the streets, backroads, and trails of my home.
Travel writing isn’t about where you go, it’s about where others want to go. Go local, no one has better access than you.